For a long time now I have been struggling with my church and my faith. After a particularly stressful summer (nothing to do with church!) I attended a weekend retreat on The Celtic Christ. Maybe I wasn’t in the best of moods but I didn’t really integrate with the group very well. I am sometimes a loner and need to be on my own at times but the weekend didn’t turn out quite how I imagined it. I did enjoy the worship, being Celtic in nature. I find it very much to my liking. I guess what struck me was that everyone seemed to have such a strong faith and their churches were doing so much. I mulled this over and (this is me getting paranoid) I felt a bit of an outsider. My faith flounders and my church doesn’t help. I did speak to a couple of people about this (about my church rather than my faith) including the leader of the retreat. He said was just having friends at church enough? !
I had a lot on my mind coming away from that retreat and I let it sit there. I felt really unhappy at the prospect of changing churches but I realised something had to change. The following Sunday I attended another church which is a bus ride away (I wanted to go somewhere where no one would know me and I’d looked at their website many times and thought it would suit me).
My feelings on attending the church were very mixed. It certainly began to open my eyes to what is out there. I enjoyed their style of worship very much. Though Anglican, the liturgy was simple and they sang some worship songs. That particularly week was schools week. They have links with two schools and being the start of the new academic year they invite children and parents to the service. So the church was full and very lively. I loved it that the children were so involved in the service. It was a nice service. On the other hand I felt totally alone (though I reminded myself that God was there so I wasn’t totally alone!). No one spoke to me but then I didn’t really want anyone to (told you I was in a weird mood). I didn’t feel I belonged there. It didn’t feel right. I argued with myself that of course I wouldn’t feel at home as I was new and all my friends were sitting in my own church. That didn’t help!
I spoke to a friend about it later that day. She asked if I felt better. I said ‘a bit’ but actually I didn’t. I felt dreadfully unsettled and guilty. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do now but I attended my own church the following week and of course it felt like home even if the service was staid. I was still in a quandary.
The following week I was due to attend another church for a commissioning service of a deanery leader of an organisation I belong to. This was her local church. I’d been there before when she was commissioned the first time round, three years ago and I had enjoyed the service a lot. This time we were warned that this would be like ‘no other service they did’. It was, but refreshing. Totally geared to families, no communion and the vicar played keyboard, sang and all the songs were worship songs and very lively! Indeed during the final song the children were given bells, tambourines and other shakey things to accompany the song.
I was told by the vicar that since they introduced the service they were getting Dad’s attend and numbers had risen 30%. It was a once a month service but it was working. They have so much going for them. It’s a much smaller church than mine but very friendly. They had vision in that church. Something sadly lacking in my own.
During all these unsettling feelings something happened. Suddenly it was as if God was giving me permission to go and enjoy myself, attend other churches, see for myself. Immediately after that I felt so much calmer. I haven’t made any huge decision still. There is much I need to ponder on. Sadly this is where I must end for now – I have to go out! But I’ll be back!